Bringing the 2014 Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Drama Festival to a close, Nick Mercer and Jennifer Stanley co-directed Avion Players’ production “The Laramie Project.” This play was based on the true story of a young homosexual man, Matthew Shepard, who attended the University of Wyoming. Shepard was kidnapped, brutally beaten and tied to a fence left to die just outside Laramie, Wyoming. Playwright Moisés Kaufman took the opportunity to turn this hate crime into a play promoting acceptance, tolerance and hope.
The most impressive technical aspect of the show was the incorporation of multimedia. From the opening of the show a screen projection took the audience on a journey down a winding highway into Wyoming. Video clips were used throughout the show continuing to set the tone and atmosphere as the show progressed. Two televisions suspended from the ceiling were dropped down to show real news coverage of the incident.
These televisions were also utilized in showing real time reports made by Shawn Tiller, the actor that delivered Shepard’s medical updates. This was achieved through the handiwork of Brian Tremblett who posed as a camera man.
Music was provided solely by the cast. A piano played by the narrator, Jeanne Collins, was placed centre stage and played during blackouts and scene changes adding to the intimate sense of the show. Songs that were sung a cappella pierced through the heavy atmosphere moving the audience.
This was a true ensemble piece. Actors played many roles and frequently switched between characters before the audience’s eyes, aided only with the addition or removal of a single article of costume. Some of these character transitions were clearer than others. Changes in physicality or voice could have been helpful in defining these difficult and quick transformations. This play was extremely demanding for these actors as they were in constant motion and all should be commended for working together to keep the play as fluid as possible.
“The Laramie Project” was a beautiful, yet tragic show. This story needed to be shared as its message of acceptance and hope is delivered tactfully and honestly. Humanity is far from being as accepting as one may wish, but shows such as the “The Laramie Project” certainly help provide a nudge in the right direction.
The 64th Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Drama Festival brought a huge amount of talent and diversity to the Arts and Culture Centre’s stage in Stephenville. All groups clearly worked hard to bring forth quality shows from their corners of the province.
Emily House is from Stephenville/Robinsons and is a graduate of Memorial University Grenfell Campus’ theatre program